Franz Beckenbaeur suggested the England national teams poor play was because of a lack of English players in the Premier League. He is not the first man to suggest it. Fabio Capello, the England coach, has himself lamented the fact only around a third of the players in the Premiership are eligible for selection. The absurdity, though, is that others, of equal repute, like Arsene Wenger, have suggested that the fact that only the best players are selected in the Premier League means that the English players who do feature and blossom are genuinely capable of competing against the best. When Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard shine in the Premiership it is because they are two of the very best in a top league. It seems the fact that so few English players compete at the top level in the Premiership is both a disadvantage and an advantage. Perhaps the answer to the problem, which is that England play neither efficiently or attractively, is somewhere in-between.
Relatively, England do have very few players eligible for the national side playing in the Premiership. The quantity is not there. Of those that do play for the national side only half feature for a side that finished in the top four. The quality is not there.
On Friday against Algeria, of those expected to start, only Terry, Cole, Lampard, Lennon and Rooney play for a top 4 side. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have big reputations but this season their performances did not match up to them. The three options for goalkeeper featured for sides that spent much of the season in mid table obscurity, fighting against relegation or at the foot of the table. Simply, England have big name players, that is, they are internationally known, but the truth is that their performances no longer warrant the hype. England can win the World Cup. England might win the World Cup.
The expectations, though, are unwarranted. This is a team that is not as good as it was in the 2006 World Cup, has a number of players arriving in the tournament on the back of a poor season, and has to cope with a typical abundance of pressure. On paper, England look like a side destined for a quarter final exit. A round before or a round after the quarter final is feasible. Anything more or anything less will be a shock. There is no particular problem and there is no particular solution, England are a decent side, nothing more.